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U.N. board OKs October deadline for Iran on nukes

Saturday, September 13, 2003

VIENNA, Austria -- The U.N. atomic agency told Iran on Friday to prove by the end of October that its nuclear aims are peaceful, issuing a tough resolution that Tehran's chief delegate condemned as reflecting Washington's appetite for "confrontation and war."

Iranian chief delegate Ali Akbar Salehi walked out of the meeting to protest the deadline -- and the prospect of U.N. Security Council involvement -- contained in a U.S.-backed resolution to a board of governors' meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We reject the ultimatum in this draft," Salehi said, calling it a "disaster for the agency."

It the next board meeting in November rules that Iran did not meet the demands contained in the resolution, it could rule Tehran in noncompliance of a part of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty banning the spread of nuclear weapons. The board is obligated to report noncompliance to the Security Council, whose range of action reaches from criticism to economic sanctions.

Ahead of the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration argued that Iraq had defied IAEA inspectors and hid plans to make nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

But diplomats in Vienna warned against seeking parallels, saying they saw no signs that any reaction to finding Iranian noncompliance would go beyond political and economic pressure.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said a deadline and other tough language in the resolution would aggravate tensions. Salehi repeated that warning Friday.

"We will have no choice but to have a deep review of our existing level and extent of engagement with the agency," he said, suggesting Tehran might reduce or even cut links -- moves that would doom attempts to plumb Iran's nuclear secrets.

Korea's decision

A decision in November by North Korea to renounce the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has shut the world out of its nuclear activities even as the regime openly threatens to make nuclear weapons.

Salehi blamed the United States for Iran's decision to walk out.

"At present, nothing pervades their appetite for vengeance, short of confrontation and war," he said. "It is no secret that the current U.S. administration ... entertains the idea of invasion of yet another territory, as they aim to re-engineer and reshape the entire Middle East region."

The U.S.-backed resolution submitted by Australia, Canada and Japan called on Iran to "provide accelerated cooperation" with agency efforts to clear up questions about Tehran's nuclear program.

It also urged Iran to "ensure there are no further failures," in reporting obligations and called on it to "suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material" into a facility where U.N. inspectors found traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium.

The United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of working on a secret nuclear weapons program.

They had been pushing for a resolution at this meeting finding Iran in noncompliance, but gave up because of lack of support among board members.

Chief U.S. delegate Kenneth Brill said the threat by Iran to cut cooperation with the IAEA only "suggests they have something to hide that they do not want to come to light."

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli welcomed the board's action. He said that if Iran fails to answer agency questions by Oct. 31, "that would constitute further evidence of its ongoing activities to conceal its clandestine activities and its clandestine nuclear weapons program."

A senior U.S. government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Iranians had been given a "last chance."

"The Iranians have been told (they have) until the end of October to mend their ways," he told The Associated Press in a phone call from Washington, adding the United States would push for a noncompliance resolution otherwise.

Among concerns spelled out in an IAEA report to the board were that traces of weapons-grade uranium were found at an Iranian nuclear facility. It also noted tests by Iran that experts say make little sense unless the country was pursuing nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists its nuclear programs are for generating electricity and says its equipment was contaminated with enriched uranium by a previous owner.

The resolution was passed with no vote, but without the consensus sought by many board members, diplomats said.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei toured Iran's nuclear facilities in February, and was said to be dismayed by the advanced stage of a project using hundreds of centrifuges to enrich uranium.

ElBaradei expressed confidence Iran would comply with the agency before he reports to the board at its meeting in November.

"I think the board is sending a very powerful message of support to the agency's work, to my work," he said. "It's also sending a very powerful message to Iran that they need to cooperate fully and immediately and to show complete transparency."

Among other provisions, the resolution called on Iran to "provide accelerated cooperation and full transparency" to allow the agency to reassure IAEA member states that Tehran's nuclear programs are nonmilitary.

It also urged Tehran to:

-- Ensure there are no further failures to report material, facilities and activities that Iran is obliged to report," to the IAEA.

-- Suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities.

-- Fully declare all materials and components used to enrich uranium and grant unrestricted access to agency inspectors.

The board will decide whether Iran has fulfilled the demands.


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